The new star of British fantasy returns with The Waking Fire, book one of the Draconis Memoria series, a thrilling new epic fantasy of exploration and adventure, spies and assassins, explosive magic and the battle for empire.
For decades the lands of the Ironship Syndicate have been defended by the 'blood blessed' - men and women able to channel the powers contained in the potent blood of wild drakes. Elite spies and assassins, their loyalty has established the Syndicate's position as the greatest power in the known world.
Yet now a crisis looms. The drake bloodlines are weakening, and war with the Corvantine Empire seems inevitable. The Syndicate's only hope of survival lies with the myth of a legendary drake whose powerful blood might just turn the tide of the war - if it even exists.
The task of hunting down this fabled creature falls to Claydon Torcreek, a petty thief and unregistered blood blessed. He's handled many valuable things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation's future.
©2016 Anthony Ryan (P)2016 Hachette Audio UK
"A major new talent." (Buzzfeed)
"Anthony Ryan is a master storyteller." (Mark Lawrence)
A man with a child in his ears.
Oh my, every so often you come across a story where the author has literally thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at it. This is one of those, a steampunk world “blessed” with super heroes powered by dragon blood and of course the dragons themselves. Lots and lots of dragons! It’s a heady mix set in a world of rich detail and history which also manages to squeeze in contemporary “evils” such as corporate greed and in a sense globalisation.
The story is told through the three leading characters:-
A super spy; hints of a fantasy born of Ian Fleming’s works with a highly trained agent / assassin complete with gadgets and a “Q” figure to boot.
A rogue born of a rough background, someone used to living in the shadows who in fine fantasy tradition is lifted up to go on an almost Indian Jones like quest.
A fine, upstanding sea officer who is our conduit to the book’s naval parts and shipborne adventures.
Through these three varied leads Ryan sweeps us through the bright and varied world he has created with espionage, sea battles, land battles, pirates and of course lots and lots of dragon combat. I think it’s fair to use the work “epic” here.
Is it perfect? Well no, I think that would be pushing it. Stephen Brand would not be my first choice of narrator. He does a good enough job but for a book with this variety of pace, character and scene I think he is a bit one-dimensional compared to some of the very best. I do admire anyone that can narrate through so much material to be fair but someone with a wider variety of character voices and greater ability to change pace would have been welcome. Also, as a story there are some fairly contrived rescues for characters. This is nothing unusual but it did seem to stand out a couple of times for me.
So, this isn’t say as gritty and doesn’t have the “real” feel of say a Brandon Sanderson but it is great fun, varied and full of action. Especially in the second half. There are a good set of characters to get to know and a detailed world to discover. I was very happy with it and I think it is set up to continue in the same vein. The question to ask at this point is can the author keep it up in the follow-up books having thrown quite so much into this one?
I hope so and I will be finding out!
Opening a book with a letter can be a gentle way to introduce your reader to the world they will be inhabiting through the course of the narrative. This is true for Anthony Ryan’s latest novel in one way, it's a letter but as far as easing you in that's not quite true. For in a very short time we are welcomed into a world of potions and Drakes. These though are the grander points that are hard not to miss, it is the smaller ideas that seep through like syndicates, engines and firearms that show this is no run of the mill Dragon tale.
Ryan manages to marry a Steampunk setting in with a Western, an Espionage tale and a Naval story and this is only to begin with. This is a tricky idea to say the least, but in using three point of view characters he manages to pull it off. The central trio consist of Lizanne, Claydon and Hilemore. They are a mixed group with Clay (short for Claydon) being a thief from the dark streets, Hilemore a naval officer and Lizanne a spy. Each has their own arc though Clay and Lizanne are interwoven for large chunks of the narrative. All three feel fleshed out and you start being able to anticipate their moves later in the book. This in some way sacrifices the plot twists, however by establishing the players and developing their characters Ryan manages to draw you into their stories at a more emotional level. This is important for a larger series as if we end up following this trio in the later books then the groundwork has been laid. Lizanne was my favourite character and I think she has the biggest development arc of the three.
The real treat however is the world in which the story takes place. It feels like a genuine mix of the centuries with everything from untamed wildlands to advanced engines with an intriguing political power structure overriding everything. Although not a book about politics you can not escape the ideas that run through the book from the dangers and advantages of a free market economy to that of a autocracy. This balance allows for the a central plot theme that plays out later in the book but it also underpins the the relationships we see evolve throughout the book. The issues of the class system are unmistakable within the passages of the book. Again though it is subtle so do not worry nothing is shoved down your throat and due to the characters usually within the scene you do get a semblance of balance on views that are expressed even if it is just a derisive look or snort.
The Fantasy aspect of this book however can not be overlooked. The Dragons (or Drakes) that the book describes come in four colours, These are Green, Blue, Red and Black on the wane they are harvested for the blood which power the Blood Blessed a group of humans who can harness the power of the blood to achieve superhuman feats. In the case of Green this is healing among other things, for the Red it's all about fire, Black is sinister in the extreme and Blue is concerned with the mind. The introduction of this facet of the story allows for some wonderfully choreographed fights but personal and on a larger scale. Of course the action does not just rest on the Blood Blessed shoulders as we have Rifle, Canon and Growler to more than fulfill our action quota.
With all these themes flowing around it would be easy to think of this book as a slow burn however thanks to the three way narrative it’s not. The chapter structure follows one of the central players at a time and Ryan does a great job of pacing slower chapters with one character by putting them next to a more high tempo chapter with another. Thanks to this the 22 and a half hours of listening time felt like it was quite a bit shorter.
The narration by Steven Brand is certainly more narration than performance. He adds inflections to characters but does not try to add different accents. Due to his structure throughout the book I never found it jarring. It is worse when a narrator dips in and out of styles and this is certainly not the case here. As an example you can listen to an extract from the book by clicking on the image to the right.
This is my first dip into Anthony Ryan's writings and I am impressed with what I have heard. This book could easily be a stand alone novel (except for needing a ending), instead it is a world building introduction to a larger series and hopefully one that delivers to the high standard of this opening gambit.
Interesting story and narrated very well loved the characters who were all fleshed out enough to enable the reader to form individual pictures. The same can be said of the world in which the story takes place.
Took me a while to get into the characters and get used to swapping between stories but by the end I was gripped. Cannot wait to read the next one.
I really enjoyed the story. A real step up from his previous work. The narrator is a bit monotone, I prefer a narrator who breathes life into the words rather than simply recites them. That said, I'm still really looking forward to the next installment.
YES...yes...oooooh yes...because it's Anthony Ryan so it's very well written, the plot is new (to me anyway) and unusual.
Anthony Ryan is an excelent wordsmith...the plot romps along and I didn't want it to stop. Quite convoluted AND THERE ARE DRAGONS..not soppy, benevolent dragons either. Looking forward to the next book.
Yes...I had to ration myself and I know that I'll want to listen to it again.
Yes - plenty going on; 22 hours - great value.
Too many to select only one.
Calm and easy listening tempo to the narration.
Really enjoyed it.
another hood book from mr ryan. It starts out a little slowly but is well worth the wait when it picks up.
As fantasy stories go this is good fair, plenty of action and adventure with weird pseudo-magic goings on to keep it interesting.
However this has to be one of the poorest pieces of narration I have ever heard. The tone for the entire story was flat and monotonous with barely any discernible differentiation between characters speaking and the body of the text. Honestly this guy barely seems to understand sentence structure and the proper rhythm required for good narration, sometimes you can't tell were one sentence ends and a new paragraph begins.
So overall I'd recommend this book to any fan of fantasy and steam-punk, just don't buy this audio version.
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